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“We Are At War”

By Melissa Mann.

At a press conference yesterday, West Yorkshire Police confirmed they are not looking for anyone else in connection with last Thursday’s explosion at Carlton Bolling Comprehensive School in Bradford.  The blast, which killed 38 people, 31 of them children, and destroyed the main building, was initially thought to be the result of a gas leak.  However, the discovery of a video in the days that followed suggested the blast was in fact caused by some kind of explosive device.

The existence of the video came to the attention of police when members of the public began contacting them soon after news reports on the explosion aired.  Callers claimed to have seen footage on YouTube apparently relevant to events taking place at the school.  In his statement, Detective Superintendent Derek Lord said the video and the camcorder used to record it, were found at a private address, the home of one of the children killed in the blast.  The girl, who appears in the footage, has now been formally identified as Della McCarthy, aged 15.  Della lived in Wyke with her father, Graham, a supervisor at a large printing works in the city.  Mr McCarthy was questioned extensively by police about the video but was released without charge early yesterday morning.  Continuing with his statement, DSI Lord confirmed that it was unmistakeably a suicide video.  Della McCarthy had posted it on the popular video sharing website at 05.18, little more than three hours before the blast that devastated the school.  Details in the film about an explosive device are consistent, he said, with forensic evidence found at the scene.

Head Teacher, Joyce Wilson spoke of her “utter horror” on seeing the video.  She described Della as “a fiercely intelligent if self-contained young girl.”  In the aftermath of the explosion, flowers and soft toys were left at the gates of the school in tribute to those who had lost their lives.  However, initial grief has turned to bewilderment and anger now the shocking truth about the blast has come to light.  The mother of one of Della’s classmates said, “she was just a child.  How could a child have done this?”

In its first public viewing, Della McCarthy’s suicide video was then shown to journalists.  The footage is a chilling reminder of the martyrdom videos broadcast during the trial of eight men accused of plotting to bomb transatlantic airliners with home-made liquid explosives.  In the film shot in her bedroom, Della is dressed in school uniform and reading from a prepared script written in a red exercise book.  The handwriting in an exercise book found at the McCarthy’s home, has been confirmed as Della’s. What follows is an unedited transcript of what she read out in the video:

“This is a message from Della Jane McCarthy to the people of the world.  I want to tell you that fate has chosen me to do this.  I don’t know why me, but fate has its own ideas and they don’t always make sense.  It was fate, after all that gave my mum cancer and took her away from me when I was seven.

I’m doing this to make you see what’s going on in schools.  We are at war and fate has made me a soldier to wage war on this war.

To the people who have never liked me, I say this – I know that very soon you are going to hell and believe me, it’s the worst place in the world.  I know this because, thanks to you, I’ve been there for the last few years.  But enough is enough.  I’ve warned you so many times in my head to stop being horrible but you just kept on humiliating me in front of everyone.”

[Della holds up a bar of chocolate to the camera.]

“This is my only friend.  It’s always there for me.  Food doesn’t hate me.  Only people hate me.  And I know just how much because you can measure hate.  Just by stepping on the scales you can measure it.  According to you, my body is an insult and you’re right about that… it’s every insult you’ve ever shouted.  They’re all over me, every last one, layer after layer of them.

But now I’ve reached the bottom of my sadness.  Now I’m just angry because I don’t like what people have decided about me, about who you say I am.  What I’m doing here now, it’s my decision and that makes me feel good.  For once, I feel good about myself so that means what I’m doing must be right.

It’s funny how something as stupid as my size is enough to undo so many lives.  And lives will be undone, believe me.  What I’m doing here now is revenge for the actions of all those who hate me.  This is my revenge on all those people who wouldn’t listen to me or stop them hurting me.  To all of you I say, you will die of my revenge.  You are to blame for what I’m doing.  Words hurt, but bombs hurt more.  With this I’m going to feed your bodies to the air.”  [She pulls a plastic bottle, a large packet and a mobile phone from a schoolbag and holds them up.]  “I’m using all the things you’ve used against me over the years to hurt you.  Yes, I’m a geek and a swot but for once, I’m glad.  Not that making a bomb is hard.  Like they say on the website, it’s so easy a child could do it.  But still, I’m using the things I’m good at to destroy the people who made me hate myself.  If you think you can make someone’s life a misery without it coming back on your doorstep, then you have another think coming.  No one is immune from sadness and suffering and by doing this I will prove it to you all.

I don’t fear the blame of any blamer for what I’m doing.  The people who will die are nothing to me now, just as I’ve always been nothing to them.  When I walk into assembly tomorrow, I will look into the eyes of the bullies and know they will die.  I will die first though, so for once I will be better than them.

It’s nearly time to go.  Heaven is moving towards me; I can feel it in my room.  It’s pink, every shade of pink and the most beautiful thing ever.  And by going to heaven I think I will become beautiful too.  According to you, I’m ugly, a freak – that’s what you’ve decided about me, but in heaven it will be different.  My mum will see to that.”

[She pulls out a photograph and holds it up.]

“This is the picture of me I’d like to be used in the newspapers and on the telly, please.  It’s got my dad in it too but you can crop him out like they do with photos of murder victims.  We don’t have many family pictures and none with just me in them so this will have to do.  I’m wearing my favourite dress, the green one nobody likes.  And I have another request.  At my funeral, I want everyone to wear fancy dress.  And I want lots of flowers and balloons and cakes as well.  I want it to be like a birthday party everyone wants to come to.  I want people to have fun and be happy I’m not there.”

[Della turns away from the camera briefly, clears her throat then continues to read.]

“I thought it would be easy to explain why I’m doing this but I don’t think I have the grown-upness to say it properly.  It’s all just nonsense really, just a lot of words; I might as well have written them in the dark.  And some of them aren’t even mine.  Anyway, whatever I say, you lovers of life and you haters of death, you will come to your own conclusions about why I’m doing this.  These words will mean nothing to you.  You won’t listen to me because you’ve never listened to me.  You will say I’m just a child, that I don’t know what I’m doing, but you’re wrong.  This is a beautiful operation and I urge others like me, the unlovely and unloved, to take heed and remove themselves from the grip of the haters.  It’s time to teach them a lesson they will never forget.

I’ve got to go now because my dad will be back from the pub soon.  Anyway, there’s nothing more to say about this.  I just ask my mum to forgive me… to understand and forgive me.  And I hope that fate will help other young people like me, everywhere and in everyway.”

Concluding the press conference, DSI Lord read out a statement from Della’s father.  In it Graham McCarthy asked for forgiveness on behalf of his daughter, for compassion in trying to understand her actions and to be left alone to grieve the loss of his only child.  The investigation into the tragic events in Bradford is now closed but the debate about bullying in schools and the increasingly violent tendencies of children is far from over.  The Home Secretary is expected to announce tomorrow the setting up of a special task force to look into the problem.  Meanwhile, an inner-city comprehensive devastated by the actions of one troubled pupil, is left struggling to come to terms with what happened.


Melissa Mann could write a third-person bio telling you about herself and her work… but sod that for a game of soldiers I say.  It’s boring, pointless and has been done a million times before, and there’s way too much of that kind of writing about already in my view.  Literature is crying out for a ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ moment to shake things up and take it somewhere new and exciting.  Only writers can make that happen, though, so it’s time to stand up and be counted, penpushers.  You in or you out?

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, November 14th, 2008.